By Dan Bernstein —
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) There’s nothing wrong with a little irrational exuberance sometimes, especially immediately after the weekly ritual of consuming Bears football for three hours and allowing the better part of reason a temporary surrender to the reptile brain. Meatball life is fun, as long as it’s in moderation or under the supervision of a doctor.
So I’ll get any good sense out of the way first.
The Bears are merely 3-4 after their 17-3 waxing of the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon, not even yet a winning team and certainly one that can’t be expected to generate points by any conventional means. They have no open receivers pretty much ever unless somebody falls down and are still highly unlikely to accomplish anything of significance this season.
And I hear you, right now, asking, “How does being mediocre get them closer to a Super Bowl, Bernstein? They’d be better off losing and getting a higher draft pick and firing John Fox and running more shotgun and moving Zorich to linebacker! Being 7-9 is the worst place to be! You always say that!”
Yes, well … some of that is probably true. I might make the case though, that a legitimately stout defense might compel general manager Ryan Pace to look for an offensively minded head coach, one who actually does something discernible as part of his job other than croak cliches and run around the sidelines with a headset on, always looking like he’s misplaced his phone somewhere. This defense deserves more help.
Pace has found some pieces, clearly, and something is coming together out there that rekindles the innate desire shared by fans of this particular franchise. I wanted the Bears offense to finish whatever it was doing so Akiem Hicks could resume ripping peoples’ limbs off and eating them. Get back from commercial so Kyle Fuller could fly in from the second level and pop another ball-carrier. Leonard Floyd is exhibiting a higher degree of instinct, too, which means he’s now a focus of opposing game plans and protections, lest he wreck your backfield. Everybody was moving downhill with menace and purpose from the fat guys to the linebackers to the safeties, a position all but non-existent for too long.
Adrian Amos is playing with newfound aggressiveness, and there’s not much that needs to be said about rookie Eddie Jackson and his 151 yards of fumble and interception returns and two touchdowns. In mere minutes, Jackson became the clubhouse leader for defensive player of the week and a viable candidate for defensive rookie of the year, and he may prove to be the kind of fourth-round steal that never seems to be pulled off by the Bears.
Mitch Trubisky has nothing much to do other than hand off, still needing wacky trick plays or scoring from other phases. He’s still looking the part, but his current role doesn’t even rise to the pejorative term of Game Manager. He’s more a Game Administrator at this point or something even less impactful. Game Clerk, perhaps? But it won’t matter as much if those other guys keep popping people like they are.
No matter the ultimate conclusion, there’s no doubt that watching emerging young defensive players all over the field is better than the alternative, and for the past two games, it has been like an oasis in a desert of incompetence.
3-4 seems a far cry from 2-5, and if that’s damning with faint praise, so be it.